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Dopff au Moulin -Masters of the Alsace Crémant style

Written by Aksel Ritenis

Dopff au Moulin -Masters of the Alsace Crémant style

I recently had the good fortune to revisit Dopff au Moulin winery and cellar door after an absence of 25 years and the place is still amazing. Dopff au Moulin is a family winery dating from 1574 and growing grapes on over 70 hectares,and is located in the Alsace Wine village of  in Riquewihr.

It is rather famous specifically for  its Crémant d’Alsace, a special sparkling wine of the Alsace wine region in France which uses the Method Champenoise associated with Champagne  ,.. all be it,.. with very different grape varieties.

Located at an altitude of 300 metres, the village of Riquewihr is nestled beneath the Vosges foothills, sheltered from the North winds and West rainfalls. The Terroir gains it uniqueness from exceptional soil quality, its southern exposure and a distinctive micro-climate over the upper parts of Riquewihr which are responsible for a wide range of grapes and for the blooming of almond trees among the vineyards.

The Alsace AOC was only created in 1962. It represents 72% of the production, the Crémant d’Alsace Appellation 24% and the Alsace Grand Cru Appellation 4%.

Alsace AOC consists of 9 single grape wines: Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc, Muscat, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer,Chasselas and Auxerrois, and of 2 blends: Edelzwicker and Gentil.

Cepage/Varieties of Alsace

Sylvaner:  Light and fruity, fresh and easy drinking.Ideal with seafood and shellfish, cold cuts and meat pies.Local cuisine: great pairing with onion tart, tarte flambée.

Pinot Blanc and Pinot Blanc :   “Domaine Familial”Light and fruity,Ideal with terrines, fresh cheeses.Local cuisine: great pairing with baeckaofa, cheese cake.

Muscat:  Fresh and crisp.Perfect as an aperitif wine.Local cuisine: perfect pairing with Alsace asparagus.

Riesling and Riesling “Domaine Familial”  Both manly and delicate, complex with finesse.Perfect with saltwater or river fish.Local cuisine: perfect pairing with Coq au Riesling, Alsatian sauerkraut dish.

Pinot Gris and Pinot Gris: “Domaine Familial”Full-bodied, velvety and fleshy.Perfect with white meat, grilled red meat or in sauce (pork roast, veal roast, duck, game or tripe products).

Gewurztraminer and Gewurztraminer “Domaine Familial:Its spicy flavor gives strength and elegance.Perfect pairing with exotic cuisine (Vietnamese, Japanese or Thai), fruit tarts.Local cuisine: perfect match with duck Foie Gras. Ideal pairing with Alsatian Munster cheese.

Pinot Noir:  Full-bodied, crisp and fruity.Pinot NoirWell-structured, silky but fruity.

Alsace AOC has been completed by two geographical indications in the meantime (municipal designations and localities)

“Riquewihr is rich in history and testimonies about the art of winemaking: historical cooper’s tools, old oak casks and enormous wine presses, all of it, in the courtyards and cellars, reminds you of what Riquewihr owes the vineyards from the beginning.”

Development of Alsace Cremant

It was the pioneering Julien Dopff, who is credited with furthering Alsatian viticulture and developing the uniquens of the Cremant. As an innovative personality, he discovered a pratical demonstration of the so-called “Méthode Champenoise”. He decided to apply to Alsatian wines this method that went so well with Champagne.

Then in  1913, he struck  again with the concept of marketing “flute”-bottled wines with that elegance that still sets Alsace apart from other wines.

 

It has not been an easy task to fight against resistance and prove the satisfactory conservation of bottled Alsatian wines.

In a noteworthy historical aside ,..the current head of the establishment Etienne -Arnaud Dopff related to me the following history.

“Julien Dopff decided to have some of them travel from Alsace to Australia back and forth. The demonstration was so brilliant that he received the highest possible distinction from the jury of the Strasbourg Exhibition: a silver medal with the mention: “for a particularly successful accomplishment”.

In 1972, the accuracy of Julien Dopff’s idea was enshrined by a decree making it mandatory to bottle Alsatian wines in their production region.Today the  wealth of Dopff consists of its plots and its stock and is based on the Family Estate but also on values transmitted from one generation to the other.This estate is one of the few ones in Alsace that are family-owned to 100%, fully integrated and independent from vine to wine.

“Today, Etienne-Arnaud Dopff is the Head of the company, prepared for the challenges of the 21st century: the global warming, the evolution of wine growing, excellence in the art of wine- and Crémant making.”

Etienne-Arnaud Dopff is concerned about sustainable vineyard and prodcution practices .The vine cultivation is sustainable with the lowest use of inputs.Their vineyards are mostly protected by mating disruption, an alternative to insecticides.

In relation to Organic wines the Estate is preparing for the conversion to organic cultivation, mindful of a culture committed to our future and our children’s future.This requires that each type of soil is worked in a specific way. Green “fertilizers” are regularly used to prevent damage to the soils through plowing and excessive use of inputs.

In relation to planting and growing practices ,.Dopff  uses the Guyot  double pruning system, respecting the sap flows in order to ensure the durability of the vineyards and the regulation of the production. The vine growing is controlled by disbudding practices but they  do their  best to find a natural balance.

When it comes to the Vendage and Harvesting practices,..Exclusively hand-picking is done with a view to respecting the raw material as much as possible.

“In their quest to achieve artistry,..within the cellar, the cellar master is the conductor. He guides the wines according to the quality and elegance requirements that are being sought. He emphasizes on praising patience with extended ageing on the lees allowing vinifications with as little intervention as possible in order to restore the vintage and the grape’s origin as faithfully as possible.”

The combination of artisanship and technology is part of their  strength with many investments in machinery like, for instance, the bottling process under neutral gas in order to limit the use of sulfur dioxide.

Their press house is still at the cutting edge of technology with its six pneumatic membrane presses for soft quality-pressing,..and their  refrigerated equipment allows to start the fermentation process in better conditions and to monitor it as accurately as possible.They own  8 stainless steel vats for the vinification of plot selections.

In relation to  ageing,devices include all conventional containers, in particular casks and barrels of 225 or 400 l.and since 2008, the Estate has been equipped with a nitrogen system in order to reduce some inputs and maintain the freshness and typicity of our Alsatian wines.

The quest for Racy and Bold Still Wines

In addition to the wines made out of grapes marketed one year after the harvest,they  also produce a range of wines of the Estate focused on the terroir and marketed after a few years of ageing in the bottles.

Grand Cru wines are wines with strong identity reflecting their terroir with a priority given to the grape varieties.

“Riesling from Grand Cru Schoenenbourg is their speciality, from marly gypsum-Keuper; this Grand Cru gives shelf wines par excellence with fabulous acidity and nice bitter notes.”

As for Gewurztraminer, they  vinify two opposite terroirs:

Grand Cru Brand de Turckheim, a solar, granitic soil, light and poor, giving floral and racy wines.

Grand Cru Sporen de Riquewihr, a cool and heavy marly soil, giving full-bodied, velvety and complex wines with a long ageing potential.

“On the Sparkling wine front ,as the pioneers of Crémant d’Alsace their  know-how allows them to offer a wide selection of Crémants with distinctive personalities combined with a dry, elegant and appealing style.”

I was lucky  enough to tast a range of wines all of which impressed with their balance ,..intensity and finess,..including some extremely Dry wines that were amazing.

The Estate invests constantly in its work tool in order to create the best conditions for the most favorable expression of its wines, Crémants and Grand Cru wines.

The company observes  ethical and environmentally efficient practices, Dopff au Moulin wishes to contribute to the improvement of our society and to environmental protection.

“However magnificent the terroir might be, it can only give back its full potential thanks to human skill. From vine to cellar,they  do their best to achieve utmost quality for the full range of our products. From the monitoring of the maturation over the pressing, to the decisive choice of the harvest date, each step in the wine making is well thought out and controlled.

Crémant d’Alsace is a Dopff tradition

The Estate invests constantly in its work tool in order to create the best conditions for the most favorable expression of its wines, Crémants and Grand Cru wines.Born at the end of the 19th century, in the shadow of its glorious neighbor in Champagne, Crémant d’Alsace got its own registered designation of origin (AOC) in 1976 at the initiative of Pierre Dopff.

“Today, having reached its full maturity, Crémant d’Alsace has become big-it is now a reference during tastings and contests and has become the most popular non-Champagne sparkling wine in France.”

So you may well ask or need a reminder about the grape varieties which may vary from one Crémant Dopff to another.

Depending on the expected flavor, it is produced from a single grape variety, stated on the label (Chardonnay or Pinot Noir for instance), or from a skilful blend (Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir) for Crémant Brut Nature Bio Dopff for instance.

“The grape variety most currently used for Crémants is Pinot Blanc that brings delicacy and freshness. The more complex Pinot Gris offers full-bodied flavors as Chardonnay is usually praised for its lightness.”

Crémant rosé  is exclusively produced with Pinot Noir (Blancs de Noirs as well).

Some long-maturation Crémants are vintaged. They show more buttery, even toasty notes.

Crémant d’Alsace may be categorized according to the blend, the vintage or absence of vintage, the maturation time on the lees; The final touch during the disgorgement process is quite important too: at that time, the dosage adjustment occurs by addition of Liqueur d’Expédition or not.

This addition is a decisive fact for the mention:

BRUT NATURE: Less than 3 g of sugar and no dosage (no addition of Liqueur d’Expédition, but addition of Crémant to fill up the bottle).

EXTRA BRUT: from 0 to 6 g of sugar

BRUT: 12 g of sugar

EXTRA DRY: 12 to 17 g of sugar

SEC: 17 to 32 g of sugar

DEMI-SEC: from 32 to 50 g of sugar

DOUX: over 50 g of sugar

The Dopff Family has always preferred to give some dosage to the BRUT (around 6 g) in order to let the wine express itself and give that unrivalled tasting pleasure. This is made possible as only the first pressing (Cuvée) is being used for the making of Dopff Crémants. At last, longer maturation times on the lees reduce the level of acidity and provide perfect bubbles.

For a number of years now, cuvées have been made, such as BRUT NATURE, in order to enhance the level of purity. That is how the following Crémants were born: Wild Brut (in the 90’s), Dopff Bio Brut Nature (2009) and Chardonnay with no added sulphur (2012).

*MANY OF THE DOPPF AU MOULIN RANGE OF WINES ARE AVAILABLE IN DAN MURPHY

Caveau DOPFF

« Domaine »

5 avenue Jacques Preiss

68340 RIQUEWIHR

Tel. +33 (0)389 49 09 51

caveau@dopff-au-moulin.fr

Open 10:00 a.m. to 19:00 p.m. every day of the year.

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About the author

Aksel Ritenis

Publisher and Custodian of the Sydney Times

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